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If you’re looking for something to do on this coming Bank Holiday weekend, the National Trust invites you to help ‘Chalk the Uffington White Horse‘ May 3–4.
Once a year the famous Bronze-Age horse, that watches over the Vale of White Horse in Uffington, needs re-chalking. To take part, booking is essential, and can be done by calling 01793 762209. 30- minute time slots will be allocated to volunteers from 10am onwards. Car parking at the site is free for permit holders, NT members with valid stickers and disabled badge carriers. Otherwise, charges for up to two hours are £2.00, all day £4.00.
This was done on April Fool’s day. It’s not that we don’t have a sense of humour, but wouldn’t it be better if public monuments weren’t used as public canvasses – even for a short time or without causing damage or “for charity”.
As we see it, each time it happens it increases the chances of someone uncaring or unhinged copycatting elsewhere to make a political, religious or “humorous” statement of their own in a way that’s physically damaging. There have been lots of “harmless” incidents, especially at hill figures, but also harmful ones and of course there’s been the recent incident where paint was daubed on the The Nine Ladies stone circle. It’s an obvious enough proposition, the idea that all monuments should be promoted as sacrosanct, even from apparently harmless stunts. It would be nice, wouldn’t it, if all monument guardians took that line and publicised it on their websites?
The ostomy stunt at the Long Man of Wilmington that we mentioned two days ago went ahead.
We understand that it was authorised on the basis it would cause no physical damage and wouldn’t be for long. Our thesis is that damage to respect for monuments (especially hill figures it seems) can lead to physical damage to monuments.
An ostomy pouch is to be added to The Long Man of Wilmington on Saturday “to help raise awareness of World Ostomy Day”. It appears also that “By supporting the day the Long Man is also helping to support himself and his on-going care and maintenance with a kind donation from SecuriCare.”
This is just the latest of a very long list of brandlism and disfigurement of monuments for commercial, charitable or political purposes. (Here’s an account of a previous time the Long Man was mistreated back in 2007). We don’t think it’s right as it erodes respect and encourages other, sometimes damaging stunts. We published a very compelling article on this subject from a guest contributor a couple of years ago. It’s well worth reading. World Ostomy Day may be a very worthy cause but that’s no excuse for doing this.
This week there have been lots of images of the Uffington White Horse in a desecrated state thanks to a certain insensitive firm of bookmakers so we thought we’d show this view from it rather than of it by Heritage Action member Jane Tomlinson.
We’re particularly fond of that spot as it was where many of the Heritage Action founder members first met up. The monument and it’s surroundings are not a place for cheapening in our view or that of countless others. Let’s hope the National Trust takes steps to make it much clearer in future than they have in the past that they absolutely agree.
You can see more of Jane’s work here. Her annual exhibition as part of Oxfordshire Artweeks this year is on 5, 6, 12 and 13 May 2012.
Without wishing to provide even more publicity to a certain Irish betting company which we refuse to name, we can’t let the occasion of yet another heritage site defacement pass without some sort of comment.
The known facts would appear to be that a group visited the Uffington White Horse in Oxfordshire under cover of darkness, and in a carefully planned project proceeded to ‘pin down’ a quantity of white sheeting with what were described as ‘tent pegs’ in order to make it look like the horse had acquired a rider. What are the odds of that happening, eh?
This was apparently done without permission from the National Trust, who ‘own’ the monument, and in direct contravention of planning laws, as Scheduled Monument Consent was not sought/granted. The bookies have stated that a donation has been made to the NT, but the NT have denied any such donation has been received.
There has been quite a bit of discussion on the British Archaeology (Britarch) email list about this prank/crime, almost all of the comments have condemned what has happened.
There are several aspects to this case.
- Physical damage. The perpertrators claimed that they stayed off the actual monument (the visible chalk) but inserting a large number of tent pegs may have disturbed archaeology – we have no real way of knowing what’s there without a large scale ecvacation. Future techniques such as much more advanced geofizz will doubtless change this in years to come.
- Environmental damage. Many Scheduled Ancient Monuments are located within SSSIs with a fragile ecosystem. We can’t help but think that a (large?) group of people clambering on the Uffington hillside in the dark, dragging large quantities of sheeting can only be causing unneccesary damage to the fragile chalkland environment.
- Collateral damage. We’ve seen this kind of thing before; Big Brother at Uffington, Homer Simpson at Cerne Abbas etc. How many other companies will think that desecrating heritage sites in this way is a good way to get publicity?
- Ethical damage. What kind of society are we living in if any damage above is considered acceptable because a ‘donation’ was made?
Was it really only yesterday that we suggested how non-professionals can help protect ancient sites?
The Giant, Cerne Abbas in 1790 by Samuel Hieronymous Grimm
The god is a graffito carved on the belly of the chalk,
his savage gesture subdued by the stuff of his creation.
He is taken up like a gaunt white doll by the round hills,
wrapped around by the long pale hair of the fields.
Taken from Jeremy Hooker’s book of poems titled
“Soliloquies of a Chalk Giant”
A restoration group is appealing for volunteers to help re-chalk one of Wiltshire’s oldest hill figures. The Cherhill White Horse, cut into the Marlborough Downs, is owned and maintained by the village of Cherhill. The 232-year-old hill figure underwent a major facelift in 2002 after losing both its whiteness and its horse shape. Since then the 18th Century landmark, the second oldest in the county, has required a “re-chalking” every two years.
Part of the South Downs with the Long Man of Wilmington on the right
Image credit Sorcha
6000 years in the making, the South Downs (which includes the Long Man of Wilmington hill figure) was today officially designated as a National Park with an opening ceremony in Petersfield. Back in 2009 BBC news reported that –
“The South Downs area has been given national park status almost 60 years to the day since it was recommended. The South Downs, which covers parts of Sussex and Hampshire, was among 12 areas identified for national parks in the 1940s. Environment Minister Hilary Benn has said the area will become England’s ninth national park…
“The announcement means the area will be given the highest level of protection under the planning system.”
More here – http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/7973417.stm
Writing in The Observer yesterday, Laura Cumming reports on the Watercolour exhibition now showing at Tate Britain and running until the 21 August.
The exhibition includes a watercolour of The Vale of the White Horse (circa 1939) by Eric Ravilious. Something, “…conjured entirely out of cross-hatchings, strokes, dabs and striations of faint colour, frail contour against pale line, with the white page breathing airily in between, is almost nothing, a see-through dream. But it is uniquely strange, starting in reality and ending in its own radiant elsewhere.”